by Dr. Geetha Garib
Assistant Professor in Organizational and Management
Tilburg University School of Social and Behavioral Sciences
The main effect of organisational diversity remains an unresolved issue for many academics. In academic research, we find positive outcomes of diversity like innovation, creativity, quick problem resolutions and others. Other researchers find that diversity brings about negative outcomes like conflicts, miscommunication, slow resolutions to problems and bad teamwork.
Managers also have divided opinions about whether they want to have diversity in their organisation or not, because there are many signals that diversity of human resources can lead to negative effects. It is harder to cope and deal with employees who have different ways of communication and need different ways of handling. However, this is exactly what managers should be able to do, but often still fail to do.
[sws_pullquote_right]”It is harder to cope and deal with employees who have different ways of communication and need different ways of handling.” [/sws_pullquote_right]
As a management professor at Tilburg University (in the Netherlands), a researcher in the field of diversity and a former financial consultant operating in a trans-Atlantic global team, I have been faced with diversity issues in many different ways from different perceptions. Diversity can be turned into a competitive advantage, but one needs to know how to make this happen.
I propose a four-T model consisting of four elements that managers need to take into account when dealing with diversity. These elements are training, transparency, time, and togetherness.
Training. Training is important for employees who are not familiar with diversity. Managers should be very careful choosing a training program because the training needs to fit their employees. Managers, for example, need to take into consideration the amount of flexibility, the extent of openness towards diversity issues, and the diversity experience of employees.
Transparency. Transparency is related to the way communication takes place in an organisation. Managers need to make sure that communication and information distribution is transparent when dealing with diversity issues. Management should make employees understand the benefits of diversity, e.g. diversity delivers a competitive advantage to the organization. Employees should also be able to freely express their thoughts about diversity so that conflicts or protests can be dealt with immediately.
Time. Diverse employees cannot immediately work perfectly together after diversity training. In time, heterogeneous groups are much more adept solving problems than homogeneous groups. However, it still takes time and patience. Employees need to get used to diversity and they need exposure in order to understand each other better. The latter requires a certain degree of patience from managers who would like to see competitive advantages as soon as possible.
Togetherness.Togetherness implies the feeling that all employees are working in the same organization and they share the higher goal of improving effectiveness. This higher goal is given priority to other goals that might lead to negative outcomes, like the threat that can be perceived from minority groups. Therefore, togetherness helps employees cooperate more effectively, thereby diminishing negative effects.
These four T’s should solve the problems many managers face with diversity—how to achieve positive effects and diminish the negative effects of working with diverse employees. These elements are useful guidelines for dealing with organizational diversity.
Dr. Geetha Garib is assistant professor in management and organization at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Her research interests vary from psychology to management. At the moment she is doing research in the field of organizational diversity and functional identity. Visit http://www.tilburguniversity.edu/webwijs/ show/?uid=y.r.garib for more up-to-date information.